Media manipulates vulnerable
we the people let it happen, 'War Powers' will become the power to get
the media to declare that we are in a war. Grief will have become a cry
-- Laura Flanders, "Warnacular"
My mother always told me never to believe
everything I saw on television, and college students are
known for our healthy skepticism -- which
is why I can't say I was too surprised to see an online report last
Tuesday that suggested CNN was using footage
of celebrating Palestinians that was actually shot in
A university student in Brazil had posted
to the Independent Media Center newswire that his professor
recognized the images of candy-sharing
Palestinians in the streets as being originally taped after the
invasion of Kuwait.
People from all over the world who visit
the site immediately responded with requests for video uploads
or stills from the old video footage that
the professor had saved to determine if this accusation could be
Eventually, the similarity between the
images on the professor's videotape and those being used in
reports about the celebrations was proven
to be only that -- a similarity -- and CNN was cleared of any
attempts at misguiding the public with
This incident illustrates a distinction
between those who were prepared to be skeptical of media
coverage (thanks, Ma) and those who had
instead learned what media critic Norman Solomon has called
"a few easy Orwellian lessons."
While most of us who read the Brazilian
student's post made sure to ask for proof, we were willing to
consider the possibility that it might
be true in light of the media manipulation that was in full swing after
Switching off with scenes of smoldering
buildings, dazed New Yorkers and flags at half-mast, the
network's powerful Palestinian celebration
footage was hard to miss in the days after the attacks on New
York and Washington, D.C.
Largely absent in comparison were pictures
of the great majority of Palestinians who mourned with the
United States. Perhaps the only major
competition was the pundits who incessantly speculated as to the
possibility that this was all carried
out by Islamic extremists.
Just as quickly as the "experts" knew who
to blame, they gave us the solution to our problem. Former
Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger
appeared on our screens to explain that "there is only one way
to deal with people like this, and that
is you have to kill some of them even if they are not immediately
directly involved in this thing."
Most people were able to follow his reasoning
because, as Solomon explained in his breakdown of
Orwellian Logic 101, "When they kill,
they're terrorists. When we kill, we're striking terror."
But some of us were left wondering. You
can only hear the same thing repeated so many times -- to the
exclusion of other relevant information
-- before you can't help but realize you're being manipulated.
I didn't want to be sold a war; I wanted
to work toward preventing further terrorist attacks.
Again, Orwell's dusty old novel provided
more clarity than the tube. In 1984, he described our
conditioned reflex of "stopping short,
as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought …
and of being bored or repelled by any
train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical
Maybe this explains why I was cautioned
about being branded un-American for attending a
demonstration called "Against the War
Effort," which urged us to consider all of our options for bringing
terrorists to justice.
I was wary of being portrayed as naive
and clueless, but I couldn't help thinking of Mark Newton-Carter,
whose brother is thought to have died
in the terrorist outrage.
He said, "I think Bush should be caged
at the moment. He is a loose cannon. He is building up his forces
getting ready for a military strike. That
is not the answer. Gandhi said: 'An eye for an eye makes the
whole world blind,' and never a truer
word was spoken."
Mark is not alone in feeling this way,
but you wouldn't know it by watching television.
On Sunday, Bush told reporters: "This crusade,
this war on terrorism, is going to take a while." We need
to learn to be more skeptical of newsspeak
and doublethink now, as there will be much more
manipulation of the truth to come in the
media's march to war.
Feltz, a post-baccalaureate education student,
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.